“You gotta get you one of these.” That’s what I would tell our young son every time I was having fun playing and laughing with my wife. Throughout our son’s growing up years I would want to share my enjoyment of Carol with someone, and so, being the only other person around, Ted had to hear this a lot. I don’t think he minded. It was one of the few things I taught in words as a father to a son. The teaching was more of an expression of joy. And the teaching had an unspoken message: “You deserve to have one of these joyful creatures in your life someday.”
I didn’t mean to reduce my wife to a commodity. I wasn’t saying, “You can just go pick one out at Walmart.” I meant having fun with a cherished partner is a great gift and not to be missed.
Through the years I also learned that having a cherished partner means there will be heartbreak too. You can’t open the heart-space wide and let another being in without the commensurate experience of hurt. This is a given. So a message underneath the message I was giving Ted is that even through all the heartaches of loving another being, it is truly worth it to “get you one of these.”
This week my wife and I complete 37 years of marriage. Before that we dated 3 years. So Carol has been in my life 40 years now. Wow! There have been highs and lows of course. You don’t have to be with someone 40 years to know that’s how it works.
There have been medical challenges we couldn’t have imagined when we made our vows to love each other “in sickness and in health.” How could we have known someday Carol would have my kidney transplanted into her? There have been unbelievably scary times, like when our son was born premature and had to be on a respirator for the first week of his life. There have been travels to amazing places in Europe to celebrate each ten years of marriage. And there have been simple joys like holding hands without words.
There have been openings of a gate of heaven in terrible and wonderful moments, and we have learned to depend on a Presence beyond description, (after we have worried ourselves to death). I mean it sincerely when I say I wouldn’t trade this life or this wife. And so, as we complete our fortieth year together I would say to you all, “You deserve to have a cherished partner, whatever form that takes for you. And for all the trials and joys of this life, ‘You gotta get you one of these.'”
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture, now available as a Kindle book.